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Revised 3-week Itinerary - please comment

Revised 3-week Itinerary - please comment

Old Apr 29th, 2010, 11:44 AM
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Revised 3-week Itinerary - please comment

Hi -
Based on your many helpful comments a few weeks ago, I asked Yatrik to revise their originally proposed itinerary for our 3-week trip to India scheduled for this coming November. I think it looks much better, but would love your insights. I've listed the cost too. It's a little higher than I expected - but I want to make sure I'm being realistic. I'd appreciate your comments on that too!
Many thanks.

Day 1 - 3: Delhi; including city touring, museums, home dinner, etc.
Hotel: The Grand

Day 4: Fly Delhi to Varanasi
Day 5 Varanasi
Hotel: Taj Gateway
Deepmala Ceremony, morning boat ride, Varanasi sightseeing, tour of Sarnath, exploring markets, sitar performance

Day 6: Fly Varanasi-Delhi-Drive to Agra
Day 7: Agra
Hotel: The Trident
Visit the Taj, Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-daulah Tomb

Day 8: Drive to Jaipur
Day 9-10 Jaipur
Hotel: Oberoi Trident
Amber Fort, arti ceremony,sightseeing in Jaipur, bazaars

Day 11: Drive to Jodhpur
Day 12: Jodhpur
Hotel:Taj Hari Mahal
Mehrangar Fort, Bazaars, Bishnoi Villages

Day 13: Drive to Udaipur
Day 14, 15 Udaipur
Hotel: Leela Kempinski
Boat ride on Lake Pichola, City Palace, cooking demo/dinner with family, dinner at Devi Garh fortress, touring

Day 16: Fly to Cochin
Day 17: Cochin
Hotel: Brunton Boat Yard
Kallaripattu, Kathakalli performance, touring, cooking lesson

Day 18: Drive to Kumarokom
Day 19: Kumarokom full-day backwater cruise
Day 20: Kumarokom; bird watching on lake, relaxing
Hotel: Kumarokom Lake Resort

Day 21: Fly to Mumbai
Hotel: Taj Mahal
Touring in afternoon

Day 22: Fly to US

Cost: $5425 per person
Includes airport transfers, hotels, car/driver, 2 cooking lessons, 1 family dinner, all performances, boat rides, backwater cruise, local guides, etc.

Doesn't include any interior flights, monument entrance fees, most lunch, dinner expenses, personal expenses, etc.
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Old Apr 29th, 2010, 12:39 PM
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Well, for Varanasi I highly recommend staying on the river (Ganges, that is), even at a loss of comfort.

I'd take the train from Delhi to Agra, and I'd insist on seeing Fatehpur Sikri and the bird park while I was there - or or the way to or from.

I still think you're moving around too much - I'd drop one of the Rajasthan locations, or the south.

The price looks way high to me, but I don't stay in Taj hotels, and prices have gone up since I was there. However, you can arrange lot of the sightseeing things (Varanasi evening prayers and boat ride, visit to Sarnath, Kathakalli performance etc) yourself when you're there, almost certainly for a good bit less.
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Old Apr 29th, 2010, 02:30 PM
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This is a doable itinerary but it would exhaust me. You certainly won't have much time to wander on your own and will be at the whim of your "local guides". You really won't have time to visit Sarnath from Varanasi, especially if you don't stay on the river - or it will be a VERY long day - or you'll be so rushed that you won't "see" anything. On the way from Agra to Jaipur, confirm you will be stopping at Fatephur Sikri - this is easy. We didn't do the bird park but if that interests you, there is time. On the way from Jodhpur to Udaipur, confirm you will be stopping at both the Kumbhelgarh Fort and the temples at Ranakpur (which will make it a very long day) or just cut out Jodhpur altogether and spend the time in Udaipur instead (disclaimer: I have not been to Jodhpur).

While on the subject of cutting things out - I think you will enjoy this trip much more if you eliminate the south and concentrate on the north. Include Jodhpur and have extra nights in Varanasi, Jaipur and Udaipur (2). And insist that you have a day at each place without "local guides". Otherwise, you will be accompanied at each location with no time to yourself and a guide that wants to take you to all of "his" places (where he will earn a commission and you will pay more).

Try to get pricing a la carte - it's probably too late for this but $500/day for two people sounds a bit high.
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Old Apr 29th, 2010, 03:02 PM
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I agree with the concept of eliminating the south. India is a huge country and you cheat yourself by seeing a lot of things for a short period of time. I'd spend at least two-three nights in each location. India is also several orders of magnitude higher than anything you perhaps have experienced in terms of sensory overload. You need to factor that into your equation.

Jodhpur is wonderful -- it has the best fort in Rajasthan -- not only in its appearance, but that it has an elevator that one takes to the top -- and an audio guide, so you don't need a human guide -- just walk down at your leisure and listen to the Maharajah (Oxford educated) tell you the story.

There's a spectacular temple complex at Ossian, about 20 km outside Jodhpur which is worth a day to explore. We stayed at Ratan Vilas -- a very comfortable hotel for only about $70/day. I honestly believe you can plan your own trip and save thousands of dollars by doing so. Many travelers need the assurance of using a travel agent, but not me. All of these places have web sites and any reasonably intelligent person can book hotels and drivers on one's own. You can pick up a guide if you need one as you go along.

Craig is spot on about the Kumbhelgarh Fort and Ranakpur in the Aravelli Hills on the way to Udaipur --- not to be missed, a lovely slice of rural India. Remember that over half the Indian population still lives in rural areas. Although tourists flock to the cities, that's not what India is all about.

I'm not as big a fan of Agra as others are, so I can't say whether you should go there or not. The Taj is a spectacular piece of architecture, but I'm an input=output sort of traveler. Lots of times the hassle isn't worth it. I found the Aravelli Hills and Kumbhelgarh Fort one of the best locations in India.

If you need a car/driver/tour guide, I would recommend Ramesh Meena at ramindiatours.com. He showed us so much more than we would have seen otherwise. We paid him about 3100/rupees/day for a Toyota Innova van, no additional fees, at high season (Nov-Dec). We picked up guides along the way as needed. Made all our own hotel and flight reservations.

You can do this!
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Old Apr 29th, 2010, 03:04 PM
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I'd also check TripAdvisor about the Trident in Agra. We'd originally booked it, but it got bad reviews, so we switched to the Taj Gateway -- okay, but not spectacular. If you want to spend big bucks, it appear Amarvilas is the way to go.
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Old Apr 29th, 2010, 11:13 PM
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Sorry to say that I don’t think this looks any better, and is still way TOO much moving around. I also would heartily disagree with people who say to skip the south, esp as you love food (the south is the place for food!) but this trip really is not much of the south with only 4.5 days. I get the feeling from stuff you have written below that you copied this from a travel agent you has sent you an itin. I think you need to really take this apart and fine tune it, as your agent is not working very hard nor thinking at all outside the box. Make sure your travel agent shows you all the flight times and connections, as you may not understand their implications on your itin (see more below)

My thoughts are below.

"Day 1 - 3: Delhi; including city touring, museums, home dinner, etc.
Hotel: The Grand"

Cicerone comment; If you mean the Grand Hotel Intercontinental in Connaught Circus that is fine. If you mean the Grand Hotel on Nelson Mandela Road, that is near the airport and will be about an hour each way to downtown Delhi sightseeing areas. While a perfectly fine hotel (it was briefly a Hyatt) I would not choose this latter hotel for a sightseeing location. I think Delhi is a very good place for cooking lessons and would suggest you look into that. Please avoid a home dinner sponsored by any travel agent, I can’t imagine anything that would be more canned (perhaps literally). If you organized this on your own via slowfood.com or something, that is another thing. But otherwise, please try to avoid “events” put together by a travel agent, I think you will be disappointed by them.

"Day 4: Fly Delhi to Varanasi
Day 5 Varanasi
Hotel: Taj Gateway
Deepmala Ceremony, morning boat ride, Varanasi sightseeing, tour of Sarnath, exploring markets, sitar performance"

Cicerone comment: Seems OK, don’t know your flight time to Varanasi, if it is early morning, then this seems sufficient time, if it at Noon or later, then you will be a bit rushed to get this all in.(You may also have a risk of your morning flight from Delhi being delayed if there is fog at the airport, which can be an issue in the late fall and winter months in Delhi with morning and early evening flights.) I personally think you might want two mornings on the river as it is so interesting, but one is doable.

"Day 6: Fly Varanasi-Delhi-Drive to Agra
Day 7: Agra
Hotel: The Trident
Visit the Taj, Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-daulah Tomb"

Cicerone comment: Wow, I don’t understand flying to Delhi to then drive to Agra. YOUR ENTIRE DAY will be taken up by getting from Varanasi to Agra. I also think you may not want to do this in view of daylight issues in November, or it may not be possible. You will have to get the Kingfisher flight to Delhi which arrives just before 2 pm, and then get right into the car to head down to Agra, as you don’t want to be on that road in the dark, and it’s 4.5 -5 hours by car. The sun will set in November at 5:30 pm. While doing the last hour in the dark while you are in the environs of Agra is probably OK, it may not be the best idea you ever had, and you may end up doing quite a bit more than just the last hour in the dark. (Note that it is not crime, but road safety that is the issue. I don’t like driving most any Indian road at night other than in cities. The plus side to the Agra road is that there are a number of hospitals along this road…) You could of course take the train from Delhi, but then you have to get from Delhi airport to downtown Delhi to get the train, which means add an hour or so to get to the train station, and then add in the train time, and so all in that is no faster than driving (although it would be safer). Better pray that the flight from Varanasi is on time, or your whole schedule is going to be thrown out of whack.

Note that the Kingfisher website gives some conflicting information, as it also indicates that in November, their flight from Varanasi does not arrive until 3 pm. This would be too late, IMO, to then start a drive to Agra. So you should confirm your flight arrival time. I believe that the Jet Airways and India Air flights arrive even later and would not work either. While Agra has an airport, the only flights there are via Delhi (or Mumbai) and you can’t connect from Varanasi as the connection flight times don’t work as far as I know.

However, you can take an overnight train from Varanasi to Agra which would seem to be a much easier option.

As for Agra, the Trident is a very average hotel (really a motel) in a not very convenient location. I would agree with the Gateway recco above. The Mughal (a Sheraton) would also work, although I prefer the Gateway esp if you can get a Taj view room or suite. The Amarvilas are superb if you want to spend the money.

Please tell me that your one day in Agra is not a Friday, as the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.

There will be a full moon on November 21 which lasts a few nights. Will you be in Agra then? Did your agent realize this and offer to get you tickets to any full moon nights at the Taj Mahal if available (usually two days before and after the full moon night)? If you are going to use an agent, make him work for your money.

"Day 8: Drive to Jaipur
Day 9-10 Jaipur
Hotel: Oberoi Trident
Amber Fort, arti ceremony,sightseeing in Jaipur, bazaars"

Cicerone comment: If you include this in the itin, be sure to stop at Fatephur Sikri on the way to Jaipur. But really, either Jaipur, Jodhpur or Udaipur has got to go if you want to also include the south or even if you just want to enjoy an itin just in the north.

"Day 11: Drive to Jodhpur
Day 12: Jodhpur
Hotel:Taj Hari Mahal
Mehrangar Fort, Bazaars, Bishnoi Villages"

Cicerone comment: I am exhausted just reading about this drive on both ends for ONE day in Jodhpur. I would be curious as to how you will see the fort, the old town AND get out to see the Bishoi Villages all in one day….I would agree that in general Jopdhur is more interesting than Jaipur because of the stunning location of the fort looming over the town, but really you need to cut something.

I don’t see that you have had any time yet to have a cooking lesson….oh, there it is below in Day 14…..

"Day 13: Drive to Udaipur
Day 14, 15 Udaipur
Hotel: Leela Kempinski
Boat ride on Lake Pichola, City Palace, cooking demo/dinner with family, dinner at Devi Garh fortress, touring"

Cicerone comment:Well by staying at the Leela you won’t have to realize how hulkingly ugly it is from the outside and what an eyesore it is on the lake front….sort of kidding, but it is quite ugly and until some trees grow around it and it starts to mold a bit it to match the other ancient buildings it will remain so. But some nice views from it and it is not as isolated as the Udaivilas. I have only seen the public areas which are quite lush, and Leela generally have nice hotels in India. I think the location is preferred to Fahet Garh, although as you now have 3 days in Udaipur, you might want to still consider Fahet Garh. Devi Garh is a fantastic hotel, try to get there to wander it in daylight (although they light it at night quite spectacularly as well), and try to tour the small village the hotel is located in. There is a significant Jain temple at Delwara on the way which IMO is just as, if not more interesting than, Ranakapur.

"Day 16: Fly to Cochin
Day 17: Cochin
Hotel: Brunton Boat Yard
Kallaripattu, Kathakalli performance, touring, cooking lesson"

Cicerone comment: Flying from Udaipur to Cochin I hope that the agent has you on the Jet flight via Mumbai which arrives at about 12:30 pm (if he has you on any other flight, esp any Air India flight, please change agents immediately. So even with that which is the best flight, half the day is gone. So overall this is too short, too short. One day in Cochin for which part is already booked for a cooking lesson? When will you see Cochin?

"Day 18: Drive to Kumarokom
Day 19: Kumarokom full-day backwater cruise
Day 20: Kumarokom; bird watching on lake, relaxing
Hotel: Kumarokom Lake Resort"

Cicerone comment: this seems OK. I see you finally have one day to relax…..

"Day 21: Fly to Mumbai
Hotel: Taj Mahal
Touring in afternoon"

Cicerone comment; sorry, one afternoon in traffic-choked Mumbai (of which 2 hours could easily be spent getting TO the Taj Mahal hotel from the airport if that is a weekday) is just not worth it. Time your flight from Kerala so that you just have to change airports in Mumbai and can go right to your international flight. Spend the day you have elsewhere.

Personally I think you should include Goa, esp if you want to cook. Goan cooking is divine! I am Jonesing for some Balchao right now! So, if this were MY itin (well I wouldn’t do it, but let’s pretend that I were willing to) this is how I would do it:

1. Fly into Mumbai or Delhi– 10 pm arrival, no sightseeing, overnight at airport hotel
2. Fly to Udaipur
3. Drive to Jodhpur – make it an early start to see Kumbulgarh or even overnight somewhere
4. Fly to Delhi
5. Train or drive to Agra – you won’t pass Fatephur Sikri so be sure to see this as part of your visit
6. Overnight train to Varanasi – can also do day train & stop in Orcha than continue to Varanasi
7. Fly to Kochi via Delhi
8. If possible add Goa if time permits
9. Fly to Mumbai simply to connect to US flight (change of airports by taxi)

This is 6 places in 3 weeks, and 7 if you include Goa which may still be a bit much, and is only slightly less that your itin but with somewhat easier logistics. You would have to work out the number of days in each place. With this itin, you can fly into Delhi or Mumbai first, but IMO Mumbai might be better mostly because there are several hotels within minutes of the Mumbai airport. Delhi’s “airport” hotels are a bit further away and traffic can be an issue to get to and from them.

This itin does not, IMO, really include enough time in the south. The south has an entirely different feel from the north, it is much more relaxed and laid-back. Also, as I just noted one another post about a south Indian itin, the above leaves out really major sights in the south like Madurai temple, Periyar national park (which you seem to have opted to omit), and the Mysore temples outside Bangalore. Not sure if that is what you want to do. You also are not including sights like the Ajanta and Elora Buddhist cave areas which are near to Mumbai (need to fly or train there). Again, a major cultural sight.


I also just saw your post about the Jersey Shore. I grew up in NJ and have a house at the beach still. (Sorry I don't rent it.) I would look at vrbo.com and organize the search by number of bedrooms. You can search by town. I have had good luck with this site in other resort locations. There are also big realtors like Diane Turton who handles rentals where you might try looking see http://www.dianeturton.com/content/RentalServices.asp. However, if you mean June, July or August of THIS summer you may already be out of luck…

For specific towns, my suggestion would be to look at shore towns in northern in New Jersey which are within an hour or so of Newark. I would say to look in Monmouth County and just the north edge of Ocean Country. Places like Spring Lake, Bay Head, Avon by the Sea are very nice communities, you could also consider Pt Pleasant or Belmar (the latter have some areas which are not as nice). Bay Head and Spring Lake are both particularly nice towns with real downtowns and good restaurants. Point Pleasant Beach has a cute little downtown area too. For beaches in this area, there is a nice boardwalk at Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant with the obligatory cotton candy and rides, the whole Jersey Shore experience. They also have an aquarium which is good for a rainy day. Take a look at http://www.jenkinsons.com/. Also, you can rent boats and go into the bay areas. Day fishing boat trips are also on offer. There is also Mantaloking and the Lavallette area which have some very lovely homes such as in the Curtis Point area which are not beachfront but are on a canal or the bay. Without knowing your budget, its hard to give reccos. (Bay Head and Point Pleasant are even on a train line, albeit these are slow local trains that would take about 1.5 hours from Newark.).

The website for Bay Head is bayhead.org, for Spring Lake is springlake.org, for Avon go to http://www.avon-by-the-sea.com. For links to other town websites go to www.state.nj.us/localgov.htm

For south Jersey, IMO there really is nothing other than Long Beach Island. I know people on the board recommended Ocean City, but IMO Long Beach Island is a much nicer place in terms of beaches and the towns. Esp in the north part of the island, places like Loveladies, although you can find many rentals in places like Beach Haven as well. These will also be closer to Trenton, IMO.
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Old Apr 30th, 2010, 01:59 PM
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Hi -
Many thanks for your comments.

A few responses:
We thought long and hard about dropping the week in Southern India, but in the end just couldn't quite do it. I've read and heard so many wonderful things about this part of the country - many tell me it's their favorite part of India. So, I know we may be cheating ourselves a bit by not seeing quite enough of the north OR the south, but at least we'll have a taste of the regions and will have a better sense of where we'll want to go back to. I also relish the idea of a bit of quieter end to the trip because I expect the first couple of weeks to be very intense. I wish we could spend more time - but 3 weeks is what we can manage.

I've added a bunch of responses to Cicerone's extremely helpful comments below. The itinerary prepared by Yatrik is extremely detailed - about 17 pages long - so I extracted just the essentials to post. During every long drive day there is a least one major site along the way or a lunch in a place that is supposed to be spectactular. I didn't include all these details. I have read up on all their recommended sights but haven't spent a huge amount of time planning exactly what we want to do each day because it's been tough enough just to get the basic structure in place.

Cicerone comment; If you mean the Grand Hotel Intercontinental in Connaught Circus that is fine. If you mean the Grand Hotel on Nelson Mandela Road, that is near the airport and will be about an hour each way to downtown Delhi sightseeing areas. While a perfectly fine hotel (it was briefly a Hyatt) I would not choose this latter hotel for a sightseeing location. I think Delhi is a very good place for cooking lessons and would suggest you look into that. Please avoid a home dinner sponsored by any travel agent, I can’t imagine anything that would be more canned (perhaps literally). If you organized this on your own via slowfood.com or something, that is another thing. But otherwise, please try to avoid “events” put together by a travel agent, I think you will be disappointed by them.

Nancy Comment: They're recommending the one on Nelson Mandela Drive - so I'll check into that. They've also recommended The Imperial (more expensive) and the Svelte Personal Suites (less expensive). Any thoughts?
And yes, they are arranging the Indian Home dinner. I imagine other posters who have used Yatrik have experienced this - was it a good experience?

Cicerone comment: Seems OK, don’t know your flight time to Varanasi, if it is early morning, then this seems sufficient time, if it at Noon or later, then you will be a bit rushed to get this all in.(You may also have a risk of your morning flight from Delhi being delayed if there is fog at the airport, which can be an issue in the late fall and winter months in Delhi with morning and early evening flights.) I personally think you might want two mornings on the river as it is so interesting, but one is doable.

Nancy comment: The flight to Varanasi is at 9:30; arriving 10:45. We'll be on the river the first afternoon/evening, and then at dawn the next day. Any recommendationas about a hotel on the river instead of the Taj Gateway?

Cicerone comment: Wow, I don’t understand flying to Delhi to then drive to Agra. YOUR ENTIRE DAY will be taken up by getting from Varanasi to Agra. I also think you may not want to do this in view of daylight issues in November, or it may not be possible...

Nancy comment: Yes, I had the same feeling. The flight from Varanasi to Delhi leaves at 11:50, arrives Delhi at 1:20 then a 4 hour drive. I asked Yatrik about taking a train from Varanasi to Agra. Ajay's comment: "The trains on this sector are quite basic in nature and you would not relish the experience at all. Trains here are not like what you have in US or Europe - there are no private cabins and bathrooms are shared. So an overnight journey from Varanasi to Agra is not advisable at all." Anyone made this overnight trip? Care to comment?

Based on our current tentative schedule we'd be in Agra on Wed/Thursday. Thanks for the head's up on the Trident. The Amarvilas seems out of our price range; $800 on the website, but Yatrik had also recommended the Mughal or the Grand Imperial.

Cicerone comment: If you include this in the itin, be sure to stop at Fatephur Sikri on the way to Jaipur. But really, either Jaipur, Jodhpur or Udaipur has got to go if you want to also include the south or even if you just want to enjoy an itin just in the north.

Nancy comment: Yes, definitely stopping at Fatephur Sikri. We are scheduled for 2 full non-travel days in Jaipur, 1 full non-travel day in Jodhpur and 2 full non-travel days in Udaipur. Which would you cut? This is, by far, the worst part of the trip in terms of long car rides, but it seems that train travel through this area isn't convenient and there are few airports. We could cut Jodhpur out altogether and spend more time in Jaipur and Udaipur, but I've been hesitating to do that because Jodhpur sounds wonderful.

Cicerone Comment: ...Devi Garh is a fantastic hotel, try to get there to wander it in daylight (although they light it at night quite spectacularly as well), and try to tour the small village the hotel is located in. There is a significant Jain temple at Delwara on the way which IMO is just as, if not more interesting than, Ranakapur.

Nancy comment: We are planning to visit Ranakpur on the way from Jodhpur to Udaipur. And will visit the Dilwara Jain Temples and have dinner at Devi Garh during our 2nd non-travel day in Udaipur; leaving early the next morning for Cochin.

Cicerone comment: Flying from Udaipur to Cochin I hope that the agent has you on the Jet flight via Mumbai which arrives at about 12:30 pm (if he has you on any other flight, esp any Air India flight, please change agents immediately). So even with that which is the best flight, half the day is gone. So overall this is too short, too short. One day in Cochin for which part is already booked for a cooking lesson? When will you see Cochin?

Nancy comment: We arrive Cochin via Mumbai at 12:30, with no afternoon plans except evening martial arts/dance performance. The next day (Day 17)we tour the city of Cochin, including a couple of bazaars, and the cooking lesson is in the evening. The next morning (Day 18) we drive to Kumarokom - a 2 hour drive I believe. We have no special plans for the rest of that day. Then Day 19 we spend the day on the river. Day 20 we have no special plans, and Day 21 we fly to Mumbai. We could arrange to transfer directly to our international flight, but given how far we have to travel home we thought an overnight in Mumbai would give us a bit of a break - even if we don't do much on anything in the city for that last day.

And Cicerone - thanks so much for the Jersey Shore recommendations. I can't believe I've been pressed into family 'travel agent' for the summer as well!!

I really appreciate all your comments. This forum is invaluable.
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Old Apr 30th, 2010, 02:33 PM
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"The trains on this sector are quite basic in nature and you would not relish the experience at all." - well, it does look like 2AC not 1AC on that route, but I wouldn't go that far, even so. Check out the info at http://www.seat61.com/India.htm on train classes.

I actually enjoyed 2AC more than 1AC - the AC wasn't as cold and the people were friendlier. And actually, if you got the berths parallel to the windows you would have visual privacy after you drew the curtains.
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Old Apr 30th, 2010, 02:48 PM
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We used yatrik but weren't offered a "home dinner." (I haven't noticed anyone here describing a home dinner arranged by yatrik.) That's just as well since we wouldn't have gone. On the other hand we did spend an evening with an astrologer in Varanasi. I liked his prediction for my husband--long healthy life and quick death while drinking tea. It was unfortunate that it was based on incorrect input to the astrologer's computer program...
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Old Apr 30th, 2010, 03:15 PM
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Cicerone is an attorney who is amongst the most well-traveled in India on this forum. She has presented an excellent case. However, please go back and reread what I and others, including Cicerone have said about the pace of this itinerary. You will visit a lot of places but you will experience very little. You will go where your guide wants you to go but have no time for yourself. Yes, you have one day to relax in the south but the way things go in India that will be the day that your flight is delayed or canceled. You need to have a reality check here - everyone is saying this is too much - that's because we've all had the disappointing experience of overextending ourselves in one way or another. Learn by our mistakes. Do yourself a favor and cut one or two destinations out and linger a bit, savor India and treat it with more respect than the your proposed itinerary allows. If this were my trip and the south was a must-do, I would cut out Jaipur and Jodhpur.
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Old Apr 30th, 2010, 10:40 PM
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I've taken a night train to Varansi, and while the bathrooms were , ummm, less than delightful, I would not miss the experience because of them. Besides, you get on the train in the evening, go to bed almost immediately, then arrive very early in the morning.

In Varanasi, I would definitely insist on a hotel at the river. Otherwise you are 30-45 minutes away from them main reason for being in Varanasi. Since sunrise boat trips and the evening Aarti are two big events, again you will be driving in the dark on poor roads. I prefer hotels down at Assi Ghat. The area is more relaxed and less congested. You can easily get a pedal rickshaw or a boat up to main ghat. We stayed at Palace on the Ganges

http://www.palaceonganges.com

but if I go back, I'll try Temple on the Ganges, next door. I had a bad experience at Rashmi Guest house, but several people here have liked it.

1AC compartments are nice with wide berths, and they give you clean sheets, pillow and blankets. 2AC is nice too. As stated, the berths are a bit more spartan, and there are more berths with curtains, rather than 4 beds in an enclosed cabin but your car mates will be friendly. In 1AC, you usually get business men yakking on their cell phones all night. With the price of hotels, the money you save by sleeping on the train --any class-- will be well worth it.

In Varanasi, I would definitely insist on a hotel at the river. Otherwise you are 30-45 minutes away from them main reason for being in Varanasi. Since sunrise boat trips and the evening Aarti are two big events, again you will be driving in the dark on poor roads.

I prefer hotels down at Assi Ghat. The area is more relaxed and less congested. You can easily get a pedal rickshaw or a boat up to main ghat. We stayed at Palace on the Ganges, but if I go back, I'll try Temple on the Ganges, next door. I had a bad experience at Rashmi Guest house, but several people here have liked it.

You might look into the ShangriLa hotel in Delhi. After many times at the Imperial and the Oberoi, I was more than happy here. Good location, and the price- especially for their specials- was very good.

Remember, you are paying the agent. Tell him where you want to stay or go.

When you rush in India, you set your self up for disappointments. Things do not run on schedule in this country! Allow time to savor and enjoy where you are, rather than rushing to see more. If you like India, you will be back. If you don't like India, you won't care how many "must sees" you see. Cut back.

I have done the Varansi to Delhi flight followed by a drive to Agra. Our driver picked us up at the airport and we headed straight to Agra. Traffic, an accident or two, etc meant we got into Agra about 9 pm. The last two hours were in the dark, and even after 4 trips to India, trust me, it was very scary.

When you rush in India, you set your self up for disappointments. Things do not run on schedule in this country! Allow time to savor and enjoy where you are, rather than rushing to see more. If you like India, you will be back. If you don't like India, you won't care how many "must sees" you saw.
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Old May 1st, 2010, 06:18 AM
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Someone, Jaya perhaps, takes disposable gloves for use in the bathrooms on the trains.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 09:58 AM
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As others have said this seems a very rushed pace, but that is our opinions. However as many have said India needs a slower pace than most other places you would travel. If you look at my trip report from our Jan/Feb trip you will see we had a slower pace & I would not have changed that.
I cannot comment on the price because we did not stay a those standards of hotels. In Varanasi I would highly recommend staying on the river. It is well worth the drop in hotel standard to be right there. But if the hotel would be something you would hate then it may not be worth it for you! There are a few trip reports that include comments about a riverside hotel that were done recently...me, Craig & live42day. Your current schedule in Varanasi is very crowded. You really will have no time to soak in the atmosphere.

A comment on the Grand in Delhi. If like Cicerone says it is the one out near the airport then it may not be the best choice. We got upgraded to this hotel on our last night in Delhi because Yatrik had some issues with the hotel we were meant to say at...they would not allow us a late check out. SO Yatrik upgraded us the Grand.It worked for us as we only had one night. It is a beautiful hotel. But if you want to sightsee in Delhi it is a long drive.(this was not an issue for us as we had already spent quite a bit of time in Delhi & so just wanted an easy day with a brief wander in the old city & lunch). Also we thought the restaurants at the hotel were super expensive.

We used Yatrik & think they are great. So you are in good hands . You just have to be sure that, as with any agent you work with in any country, that you let them know what you want to do.

Have fun planning!
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 03:16 AM
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My general comment would be that if this agent is down to planning your lunch stops on drives, then perhaps you first want to go back to basics and figure out a broad plan of what you want to see and do rather than having him concentrate on minutiae. IMO you don’t need an agent to hold your hand in that manner. You seem like someone who would be able to find lunch on their own (or get your departing hotel to pack a lunch). I don’t think you should be paying for a package which includes all meals pre-set for you, I think you would be missing out on too many options to have meals as you want, esp. in Delhi. It also means you will be paying for meals you may not make if you change plans, miss a flight, don’t feel well or see a restaurant that you really want to try.

My specific comments on what I see as your questions above are as follows:

hotel in Delhi – I agree that the Imperial is expensive. It is very nice though and a very good location in that you can walk to several sights, and so could be worth a splurge. (It’s also sort of a destination in itself with its history and has a lovely colonial feel to it.) I would agree that the Shangri-La would be a good choice, as it is also quite close to Rajpath and would be walkable to some sights. Your agent is most likely getting a bigger fee from the Grand and the Svelte, which is why he is putting you there. Have never heard of the Svelte Suites, but having now looked at their website, I would say that their location is not really ideal for the tourist either as it is in south Delhi. (Even the hotel’s own website says it is a 25 minute drive to downtown Delhi. I think that is wishful writing or perhaps they mean at 2 am on a Monday morning. I can say that it is closer to an hour to the Connaught area, as I have done the drive a few times from the Sheraton in Saket. I don’t think there is any Metro stop near here, at least not yet.)

Jodhpur/Jaipur or Udaipur yes, one has to go. I think you have settled on including Udaipur for sure. Jodhpur is hard to beat because of it gives the most wow! impact in terms of its fort looming over the city and the blue houses. Jaipur’s fort is quite a bit outside of town and does not dominate the city in any way. Jaipur however has the excellent City Palace museum where you could spend days and not see the entire collection (the observatory here is on a massive scale and quite interesting) and other fun bits like its bazaar and old city wall area. If you are really, really interested in shopping, I would say go to Jaipur, but if that is more of a secondary interest, then I would say Jodhpur. Although the latter has some nice antique shops, Jaipur has jewelry (boy does it ever) and textiles and just more shopping overall.

train cleanliness - While I have seen some fairly grotty Italian trains, I would agree that trains in Asia are not of the same standard as Europe. But for one night really I think an adult can survive. Perhaps the agent has received comments from persnickety foreigners and has sworn-off recommending trains even to people who don’t need the white-glove experience everywhere they travel. (Perhaps, more likely, he makes a better fee from charging you for a driver.) But the train sure beats the alternative of flying and driving, and really is an excellent way to get first-hand experiencee as to how 99.9% of the people in India travel most of the time (well most of them travel in lower classes than you probably will, but you will get an idea….) From a pure people-watching perspective, nothing I have found so far in this world beats in Indian train stations or an Indian train. I can guarantee you that you will be telling the story of what you saw and experienced on the train trip probably more than any of the car trips and definitely more than any flight!

Agra - The Grand Imperial is not in a convenient location, it’s quite a bit away from the Taj and any old town areas. If you agent can only get the Mughal then go with that. But I would also ask about the Gateway. Or get another agent if he can’t get you hotels that you want.
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 05:34 AM
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Although I very much enjoy selecting what I eat, where and when, I was quite happy that yatrik made the choices for me on long drives. I'm pretty sure that the goal was not to reap profit from selling us lunches but to take us to places that had reasonably clean restrooms and decent standards of food preparation. They're not exactly around every corner in rural India. The food was quite tasty too.
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 05:49 AM
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As far as lunches go on long drives, Marija is spot on. A secondary goal is to give your driver a much needed break. For us, while we rarely eat lunch, we always appreciate restrooms that are reasonably clean.
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 11:28 AM
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I worked with Yatrik & yes they will plan everything to the "nth" degree IF that is what you want. Each person has to decide just how much they want planned out for them. For some people this is the perfect choice for others not so.

They did no planning of lunch stops etc for us. On the long drives we just let our driver decide the best place to stop. We tend not to eat much or anything at luchtime when we are travelling so as long as there were clean rest rooms & a cold drink we were good.
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